I. Introduction to Civil Procedure
Civil Procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits. These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced, what kind of service of process is required, the types of pleadings or statements of case, motions or applications, and orders allowed in civil cases, the timing and manner of depositions and discovery or disclosure, the conduct of trials, the process for judgment, various available remedies, and how the courts and clerks must function.
II. Personal Jurisdiction
Concept: The authority of a court over the parties in the case. Before a court can exercise its power to determine a dispute, it must have personal jurisdiction over the defendant.
Case: International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945)
Issue: Whether a state court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a foreign corporation.
Rule: Minimum contacts standard – a court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant if they have sufficient contacts with the forum state.
Application: International Shoe had sufficient contacts with Washington because they systematically and continuously conducted business there.
Conclusion: The court held that Washington had personal jurisdiction over International Shoe.
III. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Concept: The authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter.
Case: Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Services, 545 U.S. 546 (2005)
Issue: Whether a federal court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims that do not meet the amount in controversy requirement.
Rule: A court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims in a case if the court has original jurisdiction over a claim in the action.
Application: The court had original jurisdiction over one claim in the case, so it could exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the additional claims that did not meet the amount in controversy requirement.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that federal courts can exercise supplemental jurisdiction in such circumstances.
Concept: The appropriate location for the trial. The venue is usually the same area where the incident leading to the trial occurred.
Concept: The formal written statements of the parties’ claims and defenses to each other. The two main pleadings are the complaint and the answer.
Concept: A pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party can obtain evidence from the other party. Includes depositions, interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for production.
VII. Pretrial Motions (Motion to Dismiss, Summary Judgment)
Concept: A request made to the court before trial in an attempt to limit the issues that will be considered at the trial, or even to dispose of the case without a trial.
VIII. Trial and Post-Trial Motions (Motion for a Directed Verdict, JNOV)
Concept: Motions made at trial or after, including a motion for a directed verdict (asking the judge to rule in favor of the party because the other party has not proven its case) and a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (asking the court to reverse the jury’s verdict on the grounds that the jury could not have reached such a verdict reasonably).
Concept: The process by which a party seeks to have a higher court review a lower court’s decision.
X. Res Judicata
Concept: A matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties.
XI. Law Applicable in Federal Courts (Erie Doctrine)
Concept: Federal courts sitting in diversity apply state substantive law and federal procedural law.
Case: Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938)
Issue: Should federal courts apply federal common law in diversity cases?
Rule: When sitting in diversity, federal courts should apply the law of the state in which they sit.
Application: The court applied Pennsylvania law, not federal common law, to Tompkins’ claim.
Conclusion: Federal common law does not exist, and federal courts sitting in diversity must apply state law.